Pressed in Syria, Jihadists sneak into Iraq

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By Abbas Baghdadi

Azzaman, January 12, 2014

Al-Qaeda linked militants are pouring into Iraq from Syria following losses in recent battles, the most senior Muslim Sunni tribal Chieftain has said.

Ahmad Aburisha, who heads Arab Sunni tribes in the restive Province of Anbar, said most of the Jihadists of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)  currently operating in Iraq were previously fighting in Syria.

Last week large numbers of ISIS militants poured into the country and spread their control over large swathes of territory in the desert bordering Syria, including parts of Anbar’s provincial center Ramadi and the strategic town of Falluja.

But Aburisha said his tribesmen assisted by police and armed forces had pushed ISIS back to strongholds deep into the sprawling desert that stretches to the borders of three of Iraq’s neighboring states: Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

ISIS jihadists, he said, were better armed than his tribesmen with their fast four-wheel drives mounted by heavy machine-guns as well as anti-aircraft guns.

“Weapons at the disposal of the tribes are not as effective and numerous as those in the hands of ISIS,” Aburisha said. “ISIS members are violating all rules to the extent of fighting unarmed tribes.”

He denied reports that some Anbar tribes fought on the side of ISIS, saying that “the tribes in their entirety are united against al-Qaeda.”

The government, he added, was supplying his men with ammunition, weapons and other forms of assistance.

“We are all in the same ditch … when the security situation collapsed in the Province (of Anbar) all the people in the province stood up against ISIS,” he said.

Aburisha claimed that his men in coordination with government troops were now in control of 90% of the province and that it was a matter of days clear their areas of all militants.

As for Falluja, he said, his men have retaken most of the town forcing ISIS militants into what he described as “one single square.” He did not elaborate.